Is the BlackBerry Bold 9900 too expensive?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: August 18, 2011

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is coming. There’s been plenty of speculation about where and when, but it’s finally official, down to the very fine details. We know that it’s going to be heading to T-Mobile at the end of August (the 31st to be exact), and we know that it will be the wireless network’s very first BlackBerry 7 OS handset. The Bold 9900 is set to be that perfect combination of mobile OS from BlackBerry, as well as still featuring that amazing physical keyboard. Of course, we know that BlackBerry can do some things absolutely right, but it’s the things that they are doing wrong that completely hinder the whole experience.

What is it this time? Well, it’s actually the same thing that’s keeping the BlackBerry PlayBook out of the hands of many consumers. But, we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s talk about the device itself, shall we? Just for a few moments, it won’t take long. As you can see from the image above and from the initial impressions of the device from our very own Aaron (Hairon) Baker, the device looks pretty much like every other BlackBerry device that’s come before it in this particular style. But, don’t fix what’s not broken, right? And that fits here, because the BlackBerry Bold’s architecture is exactly what it needs to be, for exactly the market it’s aiming for. Folks want that great keyboard, and that’s what they’re getting. Throw in a 2.8-inch touchscreen and you’ve got a package that many people crave.

Let’s dig into the device, though. As far as features go, the Bold 9900 will pack a 1.2GHz processor, 8GB of built-in memory, and a 5MP camera around the back. It will also feature Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, and it will be T-Mobile’s first 4G-equipped BlackBerry handheld. The camera may only be 5MP, but with its 720p HD video capturing capabilities, it may not seem like a huge down mark for some. As I mentioned above, the display is a 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen variant, allowing you to touch and activate applications as you see fit, but giving you access to that optical trackpad when you need it.

So, what’s the problem? Sounds like a high-end BlackBerry, right? Well, yes, yes it is. It’s certainly the top of the crop when it comes to other BlackBerry-branded devices from Research In Motion, and that’s great. However, we can’t forget that there are other devices on the market. Other devices with similar impressive specifications, and plenty more to enjoy after you open the box and turn on the phone. The problem is the price, pure and simple. There’s just no justifying it. What’s worse is that T-Mobile customers are actually paying more than customers that pick up the phone on other carriers. Verizon and Sprint will be charging $249.99 for the device, while T-Mobile wants you to pay $299.99 – and that’s after a $50 mail-in rebate!

Never mind the fact that this pricing puts the Bold 9900 way, way ahead of the other devices on T-Mobile’s line-up, but it’s just too much to begin with. $350 (okay, $300) for a device that only features a 2.8-inch touchscreen, a 1.2GHz processor, and an application storefront that is pretty much devoid of any applications when compared to the competition’s market or store isn’t the way to go about things. Especially not for RIM, when they’re trying to promote a brand new OS in BlackBerry 7. And it’s especially a bad move when we know that QNX-powered smartphones are coming sometime in the early part of 2012. Why would anyone buy a $300 BlackBerry now, when there’s something better on the horizon, or they can get a different phone altogether right now for the same price, or cheaper?

The loyalists are going to tell me that it’s BlackBerry, so that’s that. But, there’s no way you can justify that price. It’s just too expensive, and it has nothing to do with being cheap or anything like that. Yes, the device is great in its own right, but there are other phones out there with just as much power, more apps, and better hardware in other aspects available now for the same price. Or, more often than not, actually cheaper. RIM isn’t listening to the market, or its loyal followers. They want to buy these devices, and there’s no reason why RIM should be keeping their loyal customers from doing so by marking these devices up too much. But, just like the PlayBook they’re banking on their name more than anything else and hoping for the best.

I wonder if they’ve got their eyes closed and fingers crossed, sitting in their office chairs and waiting for someone to tell them some good news. Will the Bold 9900 (and its variants on other carriers) sell a few handsets? Of course. There is someone out there (maybe it’s you) who really, really wants this latest iteration to the BlackBerry family. And that’s fine. But, it won’t be adopted by the wild masses, and it surely won’t displace the reigning competitors from their perches. It’s time to stop ignoring the world, RIM, and actually make a play for the position you once held so strongly “back-in-the-day.”

Where do you stand on the pricing for the Bold 9900? Too much or just right? Let me know in the comments below.